Com­mu­nity takeover for for­mer bank

Hub: Groups to host events af­ter deal

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY STEPHEN WALSH

A moth­balled bank build­ing has been taken over by a north-east com­mu­nity.

RBS’s Huntly branch was among 62 across Scot­land given the chop in a con­tro­ver­sial pro­gramme of clo­sures which be­gan ear­lier this year.

Banff, Turriff, Nairn, Dyce, Bridge of Don and El­lon were also shut, with Stone­haven al­ready closed last year.

Bank bosses were ac­cused of “aban­don­ing” the north-east’s high streets with fears raised that it could be the death knell for many towns and vil­lages af­ter years of out-of-town de­vel­op­ment and the rise of on­line shop­ping.

How­ever, com­mu­nity groups in Huntly are de­ter­mined to breathe new life into the for­mer bank, in The Square, and have now taken over the site on a trial ba­sis.

Huntly De­vel­op­ment Trust has se­cured the va­cant build­ing at a pep­per­corn rent from the bank.

The prop­erty will now come un­der the con­trol of the Huntly Town Team – a fo­rum of 14 lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions in­clud­ing the trust, schools and coun­cil­lors.

There will now be a trial of the site, known as the Huntly Hub, to see if there is in­ter­est among groups and busi­nesses to use the build­ing for events, pop-up shops and other types of meet­ings.

Don­ald Boyd, from the trust, said: “Huntly and District De­vel­op­ment Trust is de­lighted to be able to fa­cil­i­tate this op­por­tu­nity in the for­mer RBS.

“It is a small but tan­gi­ble start to our plans to help re­gen­er­ate Huntly town cen­tre.

“We’d en­cour­age all with ideas for tri­alling short-term uses for the space to get in touch and we’ll work with other mem­bers of Huntly Town Team to try and make them hap­pen.”

The cur­rent lease is a short-term ar­range­ment to gauge the in­ter­est level for such a fa­cil­ity.

The cen­tre man­age­ment hope to have it open and ready for use by De­cem­ber 1.

The town team has been as­sisted by Aberdeen­shire Coun­cil, which pro­vided some fund­ing, and Ice­cream Ar­chi­tec­ture.

Des­mond Bernie, from the firm, said: “It is widely recog­nised that ad­dress­ing va­cant build­ings in Huntly’s main square and High Street is not only the key pri­or­ity but a big chal­lenge.

“Get­ting short-term ac­cess to the old RBS premises is a small step on this chal­lenge but has the po­ten­tial to spark new ac­tiv­i­ties that oth­er­wise just would not hap­pen.”

Any­one in­ter­ested in us­ing the space should email hello@huntly.town or call the trust on 01466 799416.

TRIAL: Left to right, Don­ald Boyd, He­len Kings, Linda Dur­ward and Bruce Mur­ray of the Huntly Town Team

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